Football

Bale's injury leaves Wales in a quandary

Wales' hopes of qualifying for next year's World Cup have taken a knock, after star forward Gareth Bale was ruled out of their crucial last two World Cup qualifiers against Georgia and Ireland due to a calf injury.

The 28-year-old, who missed Real Madrid's 2-0 league win over Espanyol on Sunday, reported to the Welsh camp the following morning and attended an awards dinner in Cardiff.

The Football Association of Wales yesterday confirmed that Bale will be unavailable.

"Following dialogue with Real Madrid, Bale was sent for a scan and results confirmed that he wouldn't be fit to feature," the Welsh FA said.

Chris Coleman's team are second in Group D, four points behind leaders Serbia and one clear of Ireland in third.

They play in Georgia on Saturday morning (Singapore time) and host Ireland on Tuesday for their final qualifier.

Wales need to top the group to secure an automatic place in Russia but will go through to the play-offs if they finish second.

Bale has scored 26 goals in 68 appearances for his country and was instrumental in their run to the European Championship semi-finals last year.

Bale's fitness has been a source of concern for the national side since he suffered a calf muscle strain against Borussia Dortmund in the Champions League last week.

His absence could open the door for Liverpool teenager Ben Woodburn to make his first Wales start.

The 17-year-old made a dramatic introduction last month when he scored the winner within five minutes of coming on as a second-half substitute against Austria, before creating Hal Robson-Kanu's opener in the 2-0 victory over Moldova. - WIRE SERVICES

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